Oura’s Harpreet Rai on a Ring That May Change Covid-19 Detection

Episode Summary

This week Harry speaks with Oura CEO Harpreet Rai, who’s leading an effort to explore how a wearable sleep-monitoring device—the Oura Ring—can pick up patterns that may help diagnose COVID-19 infections and other problems.

Episode Notes

This week Harry speaks with Oura Health CEO Harpreet Rai, who’s leading an effort to explore how a wearable sleep-monitoring device—the Oura Ring—can pick up patterns that may help diagnose COVID-19 infections and other problems.

The ring is equipped with sensors that measure heart rate and body temperature, as well as a tiny Bluetooth radio that syncs the data it collects with a smartphone app. The Finland-based company designed the ring primarily to measure sleep quality, but it also contains an accelerometer and a gyroscope that can measure daytime movement and activity.  Together, the data is used to calculate a “readiness score” indicating whether the wearer is fully rested and prepared for the day.

Now Oura is collaborating with the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute to study whether data from the ring can also be used to detect the early symptoms of COVID-19 and predict whether wearers will be officially diagnosed with the virus.  The hypothesis is that systematic changes in a wearer’s readiness score can presage illness. Rai tells Harry: “Their body temperature is starting to change. Their respiratory rate is starting to change. Their HRV [heart rate variability] is starting to change. We’ve seen people send us messages that ‘Oh, my readiness score changed, and my ring gave me a notification that I might be coming down with a fever, or my body temperature was elevated, and I should take it easy,’ and a day or two later they’ll feel symptoms, unfortunately, of being sick.”

If such patterns hold true, the National Basketball Association may be one of the first organizations to benefit. The league bought 2,000 Oura rings this summer in a bid to help protect players sequestered at Disney World for the season.

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